Hemi Hema received the Queen’s Service Medal (Q.S.M) in 2012 for his services to the Māori Deaf community. Along with Karen Pointon in the same year, Hemi was the first Māori Deaf person to receive such an honour.

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Hemi and Deaf Aotearoa

Hemi was the Southern Regional Maori Liaison Officer for the Deaf Association of New Zealand in Christchurch until 2009, when he became the President of Deaf Aotearoa, a role he held until 2011. Hemi has worked with Maori Deaf and their families to develop links between whanau and the marae and is dedicated to driving change to improve the outcomes for Maori Deaf in Aotearoa.

Hemi was involved in the production of the New Zealand National Anthem DVD, God Defend New Zealand, performed in three national languages.

Hemi on Te Puni Kokiri

Hemi was interviewed by Te Puni Kokiri on his views in supporting Maori Deaf. There is research that shows many Maori Deaf are isolated from their iwi due to difficulties in communication. Hemi feels this means whakapapa and other knowledge cannot be passed on. Hemi is determined to encourage whanau to learn sign language and involve their Deaf members in discussions of such tikanga as tangi, whānau assets and developments on the marae.